You’ve done your due diligence in preseason scouting, studied the local flocks and their daily routine and opened the season with reasonable success.

With one tag remaining in your pocket and perhaps friends or family in need of assistance you strike out once more, but things have changed. The birds you scouted, watched and hunted suddenly seem to be gone. Where did they go? There are numerous reasons for a sudden absence and knowing them could be beneficial.

You pull up to a targeted location on the eve of a hunt, step out into the growing darkness and give your very best rendition of a barred owl’s call –  who cooks for you, who cooks for you aaall – but there’s no reply. Because they don’t answer, doesn’t mean they’re not there. The person who could definitively determine when and why turkeys gobble, or don’t, would be a wealthy man. Perhaps it’s weather, temperature or barometric pressure, or maybe they’re just not in the mood. It’s a gamble, but if they’ve been using an area consistently, it still might be worth giving it a shot the next morning. Or you may be better off seeking a different location.

Fortunately, you have just such a spot, where you’ve encountered birds on a regular basis but haven’t been able to seal the deal. You slip in under cover of darkness, set up and await the dawn chorus of gobbling, but it doesn’t happen. You spy a few hens in the field but no gobblers are heard or seen even as the sun rises in the sky. Where did they go?

You’re not the only hunter in the woods. It’s quite possible someone else slipped in while you were away and had better luck. Or perhaps they failed to kill, but disturbed the birds enough that they relocated. Turkeys tend to be fairly regular in terms of their daily patterns but it doesn’t take much to throw them off. If there was only one gobbler in the flock, that location may be done for the season … or maybe not.

You try another spot and a more patient approach, setting up on a field edge and waiting, hoping the birds will come as they have in the past. Your vigil is rewarded only with a single hen sighting, and she quickly slips off into the woods. Where are the gobblers? Where are the other hens?


Most spring turkey seasons are set to start after the majority of hens have begun nesting. As their clutch nears completion they spend increasingly less time with the flock and are less interested in the advances of their suitors. The toms aren’t ready to quit yet, so with few or no more potential mates in the vicinity they may strike out for greener pastures. They’re gone, but probably not too far.

You wake up one morning to the sound of wind-driven rain pelting against the windows. It won’t be fun, but with limited days to hunt you venture forth. The woods are filled with the sound of wind whipping through the trees and raindrops pattering on the leaves and ground, but no gobbling. The sun rises unseen behind a curtain of gray clouds and still no turkeys arrive. Be patient. Foul weather often delays their daily routine and they’ll linger longer on the limb. Eventually the need to breed and feed will overcome their inertia and they’ll join the game.

The season is winding on and you’re seemingly out of options but all is not lost. As noted above, sometimes gobblers just aren’t in the mood to gobble, especially as the days grow longer and warmer. It may be time to go old school. Pick a likely location, set out a couple decoys and yelp three times on a box call. Then wait. It may take minutes, or hours, but if there’s a gobbler within earshot, and he’s so inclined, he’ll eventually find you.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and Registered Maine Guide who lives in Pownal. He can be reached at:
[email protected]

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